The socially conscious joys of thrift shopping

Lena Hwang 23 (left) and the author (right) snap a picture inside the Pasadena Salvation Army before heading out with bags full of clothes.

Julia Krider

Lena Hwang ’23 (left) and the author (right) snap a picture inside the Pasadena Salvation Army before heading out with bags full of clothes.

Today, thrift shopping has become one of the top trends amongst teenagers and young adults. Over the past few years, my friends and I have made countless trips to Goodwill. Famous YouTubers and TikTokers have definitely added to thrifting’s fame as well. 

Thrifting is a great way to hang out with friends while going on a clothing treasure hunt through piles of flannels and t-shirts. And, if you can get past the cringey Forever 21 shirts, you just might find a hidden gem, such as a vintage leather jacket or a Pink Floyd band tee from the 70s.

Thrifting is a blast. What some people may not know is that thrifting helps our planet as well. 

Combing through the aisles of Salvation Army, products from companies like H&M, Forever 21, Zara and Shein are all over the place. These brands fall into a category known as “fast fashion.” Fast fashion refers to brands who move their designs from the factory and into retail stores as quickly as possible. 

Fast fashion, by definition, churns out a lot of clothes at high speeds. Like any other large company that produces a lot of goods, fast fashion companies utilize factories to manufacture their clothing. This high-production rate negatively impacts the environment. According to Business Insider, it takes about 2,000 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans and 700 gallons to make a single T-shirt. The majority of these industries’ products are made of cotton, a plant that requires a lot of water to cultivate. In addition to this water waste, fast fashion companies use hazardous chemicals. On top of all that, around 85% of these non-biodegradable clothing items wind up in landfills, where dyes and toxins in these clothes leech into the surrounding soil and water. 

Thrifting addresses all of these problems. When people shop at thrift stores, the demand for clothes from fast fashion industries goes down, therefore reducing the water and chemicals used in the manufacturing process. When people donate their old clothes instead of throwing them away, the amount of textile waste in our landfills is reduced as well.

I love thrifting with my friends, and I love to see that people are shopping with an environmental mindset and are choosing to shop at thrift stores instead of fast fashion businesses. My only concern, as someone who values being a socially conscious shopper, is whether or not my friends and I, by shopping at thrift stores, are taking necessary clothes away from the needy. So, I called Goodwill locations in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Santa Clarita to ask.

According to the employees I interviewed, while teenagers have been shopping more frequently at their stores lately, the supply has not suffered. One employee commented on how they weren’t accepting donations because the store is too full. Another mentioned how she hadn’t been working there long, but there were overwhelming amounts of donations. 

So, to all my thrifters out there, fear not! Thrifting is a win-win situation for both our closets and our environment. And to those of you who have never stepped foot in a Goodwill before, I highly recommend the experience. Now that you know all the upsides of supporting the business, why not give it a try? You may find something extra special, and it will be well worth it because our planet will be one step closer to being cleaner than it was before.